This time of year is special. It’s cold outside, so we gather close to one anther to share stories and to sing songs. And the nights are long, with lots of dark, so our stories and our songs often have a very important part, and that is… light!
You all know the story of the Grinch, so you’ll know what I mean when you recall the end of the story… it’s Christmas morning, and all the Whos down in Whoville come out of their houses and hold hands in a big circle and start singing [sing this!]: Fah who for-aze! Dah who dor-aze! Welcome Christmas, Come this way! Fah who for-aze! Dah who dor-aze! Welcome Christmas, Christmas day! And as they sing, the light of their joy grows and glows and climbs into the sky like the rising sun, or like a huge, shining star on the top of a Christmas tree.
And then there’s [sing again]:… Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you could even say it glowed (like a light bulb). Imagine how dark it was that foggy Christmas Eve! It’s the light of Rudolph’s nose that saves Christmas that year, when Santa and all of the other reindeer team up on their magical journey delivering toys to children all around the world!
But there’s another magical Christmas story that’s much older than those ones. It takes place in a stable, like a barn… at night… what’s this story about? [ask for responses, includingng ones about baby Jesus]… and tell me what you see there, when you imagine the story. [Look for responses including Jesus, Mary, Joseph, angels, donkey, cows, sheep & lambs, three wise men/kings (they came sometime later), the star.]
Can you all picture this scene? I can. In fact, I used my imagination to follow that star of wonder on the night Jesus was born and I want to tell you what I saw….
Jesus was born in the early evening. The cattle, the sheep, and the donkey had all been brought in for the night and were quietly eating their grain and hay. Joseph had made sure that the manger Jesus slept in was full of the softest hay he could find, and then he found some more hay and made a warm, soft place for Mary to rest. He was tired after their journey, so he settled himself in a dark, quiet corner of the stable, not far away, and there he nodded off to sleep.
But Mary, tired though she was, could not sleep. She gazed with love-filled eyes at her tiny baby, asleep on the hay. And when Jesus awoke and cried, she gently picked him up and fed him and rocked him and sang to him softly into the night. And all the while, that bright star was shining high over the little town of Bethlehem.
And then, Mary heard a slight sound coming from outside, a shuffling, scuffling kind of sound. Mary looked out the open stable door, to the path down which Joseph had led her, riding the donkey, just hours before. And as she looked, she saw someone coming toward the stable. The person was stooped over, shuffling with small steps, and carrying a lantern to light the way in the dark. But Mary couldn’t see the face… who could this be, coming in the night, she wondered?
And then she knew! Yes, she knew! And in that moment, Jesus, who had been quietly asleep in her arms, opened his eyes, but did not cry.
“Mama!” Mary whispered in excitement to her mother as she entered the stable. Mary did not want to wake Joseph, who was now fast asleep. And Mary’s mother, Jesus’ grandmother, greeted her daughter with love and beamed with joy for her new grandson. She then carefully set her lantern down on a low shelf nearby and came and sat close to Mary, who was cradling Jesus.
And then the mother of Mary began to speak. She said: “Mary, this is a holy time. Now you are a mother. The world, as you know it, is forever changed because you have given birth to this baby, Jesus. You are a young mother and have so much to learn! You will learn the most true, wondrous, and holy things from Jesus. Yes, you will learn from your child! This is because all children, in their innocence, are especially near to God. Mary, deep inside each of us is the child we once were. You must learn from Jesus by listening with your heart, the heart of the child inside you. And then, as the years pass, and as your heart comes to understand the fullness of a child’s wisdom, you must return that wisdom to him. As Jesus changes from a baby to a boy and then to a man, you must guide him to live a life filled will the good and wise things which he taught you. Mary, I am telling you this, as my mother told it to me when you were born.”
And Mary’s mother kissed her daughter and blessed her grandson, Jesus.
And the flame in the grandmother’s lantern shone a warm glow on that holy night long, long ago.
I was told after sharing this story that there is a brief reference to Mary’s mother in the Christian Scriptures, and that her name is Elizabeth. However, the character’s name is unimportant in what I have imagined here. What’s central is the love, care, and wisdom passed from mother to child.